Why the Vodafone protests have already been successful


11:00 am - November 2nd 2010

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contribution by Chris Coltrane

Last Wednesday a group of us took non-violent direct action against Vodafone’s flagship store, to protest the fact that the government let them off an estimated £6 billion tax bill, while cutting great swathes of government services to the bone to cut the debt.

At the end of Wednesday’s protest, the organisers discussed taking further action, while the energy was high. The result was a nationwide Vodafone shut-down.

On Saturday, myself and the 100-strong London contingent closed three stores on Oxford Street, and even found one store which had been pre-emptively closed by Vodafone. At least 20 stores in total were closed around the UK by protesters in Liverpool, Brighton, Glasgow, York, Birmingham, Manchester, Oxford and Edinburgh, and more besides.

As The Guardian have pointed out, it’s too late for the government to be able to legally ask Vodafone to pay the money back.

But before the protests, almost no mainstream newspaper had mentioned the Vodafone tax story. After the protests on Wednesday, all these newspapers started covering the story.

And after the protests on Saturday, we caught the attention of all these newspapers, both regional and national, and even some international. The Guardian, the BBC, Sky, the Financial Times, the Express (urgh), Bloomberg, the Metro, the Mirror, the Evening Standard, the Press Association (the wire service used by other newspapers), and plenty more besides.

I tweeted saying that the protest had been a complete success. Some h8rz (as I believe is the common parlance) replied saying that claiming success was ludicrous, because Vodafone hadn’t paid back the money.

As if Vodafone were going to cough up six billion pounds based on a few protests. This was never the aim of the protests.

Of course, it would be a tremendous victory if they did, but the aim of the protests was to raise awareness of the fact that the narrative that the government and the media sells us – “We’re all in this together, the cuts are inevitable, the cuts are unavoidable” – is claptrap. If the rich paid their tax, you wouldn’t need to make a single cut to any essential service.

This awareness raising is the yardstick by which success is measured – and from what I see, our success was off the scale. The only thing that arguably went wrong was that the 2000 leaflets which the organisers brought along weren’t enough. But in fairness, who could have predicted just how popular the message was which we were communicating?

The response was overwhelmingly positive towards the protesters, and hateful towards Vodafone, the government, and the rich.

Once people have the facts, once people are shown just how widespread is tax avoidance, they see that the cuts aren’t necessary. Here’s hoping that the momentum stays high, and that there is further non-violent civil disobedience very, very soon.


Chris is a stand-up comedian by night, a writer by day, and a thorn in politician’s arses whenever the opportunity arises. He occasionally blogs here

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Reader comments


I’ve read this twice, and you still doesn’t seem to be telling us where we get the money from next year.

Or the year after.

Or why you chose to go after a one-off tax charge, instead of, say, Alliance Boots or TopShop.

Are you sure you’re not being paid by Telefonica?

As for raising awareness, perhaps when you manage to put your message before more people than the SWP’s usual newspaper sales on a Saturday manage we might start taking the argument that this is a success seriously.

Can you imagine how many Vodaphone employees would be laid off if the company got stuck with a 6bn bill? Newbury would be the joblessness centre of Britain. Is that what you want?

while cutting great swathes of government services to the bone to cut the debt.

Not the debt; the deficit.

Well said Chris.

I’d like to add – from my own point of view – I organised the Liverpool protest because I also wanted to show that people can actually have an effect. Our actions caused a giant company to close 21 shops: we had power over them. For me it was as much about raising awareness as it was about reminding the government and big business that people have power too.

@Luis, dear boy, have you not received the memo? Facts are just so meh these days, it’s all about the narrative.

7. James from Durham

Flowerpower – that is merely blackmail. Give in to that sort of argument once and we may as well reduce the corporation tax rate to zero, with the obvious consequences for this country’s infrastructure.

There is always special pleading. It should always be ignored. Or perhaps, you don’t believe in the rule of law?

It is noteworthy that after having failed to pay their tax debts, Dundee FC are now looking at extinction.

Absolutely agree Chris.

Estimated tax gap of avoidance plus fraud is £120 billion per year.
Estimate of welfare cheating £1 billion per year.

Chris is a stand-up comedian by night, a writer by day, and a thorn in politician’s arses whenever the opportunity arises.

Don’t give up the night job………..

As The Guardian have pointed out, it’s too late for the government to be able to legally ask Vodafone to pay the money back.

Pay the money back? They haven’t been given anything. There was a dispute over whether any tax at all was due. Vodafone won at first instance, and HMRC appealed. Given the unholy mess that the CFC law is in at present, the settlement was making the best of a bad job.

Normally of course I’m all in favour of spinning out such cases over years and years, and providing a Keynesian boost to the army of starving tax lawyers, but…

It is sad that these protests are what lefties have been reduced to. Disappointed by the failure of Ed Miliband and the Labour Party to provide leadership and an alternative to the cuts, and shocked by the general apathy or approval towards the cuts among the population, you’re hitting out at the enemy any way you can. Sad. 1984 miners’ strike this ain’t.

Normally of course I’m all in favour of spinning out such cases over years and years, and providing a Keynesian boost to the army of starving tax lawyers, but…

I knew Keynes could be used to justify lots of daft things, but not even filial professional loyalty will convince me he can justify tax lawyers. 😉

The narrative is important and these actions are relevant.

In the last 24 hours, I’ve been speaking with a group of already-low-earning frontline public sector staff who are about to have their salaries downgraded. They’re not executives, or senior managers. They’re hardly milking away on the public tit. I’d barely describe the money they earn as a living wage for London – under £20k I think. They’ve done nothing wrong – been going to work in a public-facing job for years and years and now they’re the innocent parties in an arse-about ‘narrative’ that says the public sector must be erased and that we’re all in that together.

Anyway – a group of people who’d heard about the Vodafone protests are going to try and help them organise a protest of their own for the weekend. And sure – it probably won’t change a thing in the short term and yap yap yap, but that’s not the point. The point is that they feel like they might not be scraping along alone after all.

That narrative has a lot more going for it than Osborne’s in my book. It’s just a pity that the mainstream press isn’t covering these things and these people in the detail that it should be.

I knew Keynes could be used to justify lots of daft things, but not even filial professional loyalty will convince me he can justify tax lawyers.

Oh, I see very clear parallels between most corporate law and Keynes’s idea of employing gangs of men first to dig and the fill holes.

‘This awareness raising is the yardstick by which success is measured – and from what I see, our success was off the scale.’

I’m sure ‘awareness’ will amply compensate those about to lose jobs or benefits in the cuts but in the meantime sweeping up discarded leaflets will keep someone in work for a little longer.

Except that corporate lawyers probably already have all the money they need and giving them more will more than likely mean they will save more, whereas you provide money to the unemployed or the poorly paid who don’t have enough to meet their basic needs and that money will be spent providing economic stimulus. Keynes knows this but we clearly don’t because we do QE which doesn’t get money into the hands of people who will spend it on direct consumption or small business people with an idea that they need to invest in.

@Shatterface – if you’re inspiring people who haven’t had much support or inspiration from other quarters, you’re doing a bit more than raising awareness. You’re giving people reason to think that they don’t have to take attacks on their jobs and incomes lying down.

Tim @14: that is made of sheer, pure, unadulterated win.

Lawyers: yeah, fuck off, dig a hole, whatever; it’d be more helpful than whatever you were planning.

18 – we usually just sort of cancel each other out. If both teams of lawyers were told to go and play golf, or dig a hole, the principals would usually make a better deal.

This also applies to investment bankers.

Um. Except when it comes to litigation of course, then we’re really useful and important, and so on.

“You’re giving people reason to think that they don’t have to take attacks on their jobs and incomes lying down.”

But the opposite is true about campaigns and actions that fail or have limited effect. It’s often argued that the defeat of the minors strike had such a long lasting and damanging effect on the willingness of people to strike that the union movement has yet to recover 26 years on.

Isn’t there also a danger that campaigns that aren’t thought through or that have unspecified and infinate goals (“awareness raising” – how exactly do you know whether your action succeeded?) simply lead to a revolving door of activists who burst onto the scene full of enthusiasm, only to become disillusioned at the lack of progress and then leave to do things that they percieve to be more worthwhile. Particularly when ‘successes’ are greatly exaggerated (21 stores shut is not a nationwide shutdown by any reasonable measure of the term ‘nationwide’). Its like trotskyist parties who reported the success of their actions by how many papers are sold. For example one anti-war demo in Wales was reported in ‘the socialist’ as ‘very succesful’ because they had sold 12 papers…..

As I’ve said before, boycotts are inherently a consumerist response to corporate bad behaviour – they are the libertarian’s prefered method of corporate control. I keep hearing that they have a great success rate, but very little in the way of concrete examples of success (which is why the ambitions now seem to be as low as ‘raising awareness’). Can anybody give an example of a boycott over the last 3 years that has achieved its goals?

Think about it this way; no charity regards awareness raising as an end in itself. A charity dealing with domestic violence does not write in its annual report “the number of people who now know domestic violence is bad is 10% up on last year” – they report concrete figures like the number of clients helped, the policy or legislative changes they’ve helped to draft etc. Awareness raising is only ever used as part the means to achieve this.

Pedantically should the headline start with “how” rather than “why”…?

Actually I think this campaign is quite admirable in intent, tone and so far good (if possibly) over-hyped momentum.

Footnote to all the h8rz who are demanding to know why no-one has shut down Boots: great idea – why don’t you go and do it? And when you’ve finished why not write to the Cats Protection League and ask them why they do nothing for dogs. Really, it would be a good use of your time…

Just a quibble – I was in Birmingham on Saturday, and whilst protesters were blocking the Vodafone shop door there, it was clearly not closed (and shoppers were going in and out). It is possible they closed another branch (not sure if there is one) or it was temporarily closed when I was not there, but my eyewitness testimony does not back this up.

“all the h8rz”

Its like being at a limp bizkit gig……

25. Luis Enrique

Kate,

As a general vehicle for “you’re getting screwed by cuts whilst we could be getting more tax out of richer people” I can see how this Vodafone story would be a successful motivator. Lord knows, I agree with the message.

To what extent, then, does it matter if the message “the government let Vodafone off £6bn” turns out to be very misleading, both with respect to the “let off” and the £6bn aspects?

You may care about using misinformation for both moral and pragmatic reasons. What are the pragmatic problems? I reckon the main risk is to the credibility of your cause. But this is a case by case thing – in some cases the cost of loss of credibility may outweigh the gain of recruiting lots of angry by misinformed supporters, in other cases not. I have no idea about this case.

[there’s talk of £6bn forgone – even if you believe the bill was £6bn, that’s £4.8bn forgone. But nobody cares about details when you have a cause]

But it’s not misleading. It’s true. Spreading misinformation would be stuff like – oh I dunno – going on left wing blogs and attempting to cast doubt on the fine details of such cases while pretending to be overall supportive. Colour me not actually fooled.

27. Luis Enrique

oh sorry, I meant other Kate, but it doesn’t matter.

I’m not attempting to cast doubt on “fine details” I am casting doubt on the substance of the phrase “let off” because I think that HMRC probably did close to the best it could, given the legal constraints it is under, so I think “let off” is substantially misleading, and I’m casting doubt on the £6bn because I think the true sum in question is probably a lot smaller. I am basing this on what I have read from people whom I think know what they are talking about, like Tim J and John B on other threads. Of course I / they could be wrong.

I certainly don’t think things are clear cut enough to run with “the government has let Vodafone off £6bn fact” line. I don’t know what you’re basing your opinion that’s its true upon. What basis do you have for your beliefs?

Talking of having opinions with no basis, where do you get off with that “pretending” line? Tell me, where do you think political movements end up, if members who question their claims are branded traitors etc.?

27 – I suppose it depends on what you want to get out of the protest. If you want to generate a slightly inchoate sense of anger at the fact that large corporations generally don’t pay as much tax as they should, it probably doesn’t matter that you pick out a particularly bad example – Vodafone, tax dodge and £6bn are pretty good rallying cries, and I suppose they can’t really go and picket the Guardian over their use of a Caymans SPV for the sale of Auto Trader.

If they’re genuinely trying to make a serious point about this particular dispute, then yes it would have been more helpful if they’d bothered to read or understand the background to it. But then, if they’d done that the slogans wouldn’t fit so neatly onto a placard. “Support ss747&748 ICTA 1988 as originally drafted! Down with the necessary implied exemption introduced by the ECJ ruling in Cadbury-Schweppes!” isn’t especially catchy.

The interesting thing here is that the shops lost money by closing. This will also have blackened Vodafone’s image among UK consumers.

And that is no bad thing. It helps to make large consumer-product companies aware that their reputations are at stake when they use dodgy, even if legal, practices to escape paying the taxes that our health and our childrens’ education rely on.

I don’t know what Vodafone’s reputation is worth to them – but the fact is that companies like Vodafone spend billions and billions on marketing and branding to give themselves a strong reputation.

Protests like this, if frequent enough and directed well enough, might make some companies thing twice about failing to meet their obligations to the community.

30. Shatterface

It might help your credibility if you didn’t describe people who are rightly cynical about the exercise as ‘h8rz’, which makes it look like you could more profitably spend your time queuing up for Robert Pattison’s autograph.

@Luis, I don’t think either Kate would let anything as insubstantial as the facts or accuracy get in the way of their little crusade to add meaning to their post-Labour lives.

Yeah, Limp Bizkit-style! Does this mean Sunny will dress up as Fred Durst for the next protest?

Well done to Luis, Tim J and the usuals for spectacularly missing the point in the article. Keep that idiotic cynicism going boys – maybe one day the lightbulb will go off.

simply lead to a revolving door of activists who burst onto the scene full of enthusiasm, only to become disillusioned at the lack of progress and then leave to do things that they percieve to be more worthwhile.

The article already points out what the measure of progress is, and how that has been successful.

Honestly, do people not read the article or something?

@Planeshift et al –

Ok, guys – so what’s your alternative? What’s your suggestion? People are desperately worried and unhappy about public sector cuts. There is a perception – it’s correct – that the world has been thrown into recession by a handful of cowboys who took the speculating game a little far. The rest of us are being told that we must pay for it. How do you propose people respond to that and pursue community-led change?

And why shouldn’t I refuse to shop with retailers who are disingenuous? We have a list of retailers who signed a letter to the Telegraph saying that the cuts would be advantageous to the economy – while all the while laying people off and predicting tough times. Why should I tolerate that? Why shouldn’t I insist that big corporates pay their tax? Why should I take that crap lying down? I can take my business where I like. The response to that initiative suggests to me that other shoppers feel the same.

As for the success of protests, sit-ins, boycotts, whatever – that change is only measured over time. What I can tell you is that things are a little further along than they were even a few weeks ago – and I suspect that is why posts like this one, and mine on the boycott of Telegraph companies, and Sunny’s on the Vodafone protests – are drawing such a response. Nothing quite upsets lovers of the status quo like a threat to the status quo. And there’s nothing more threatening to that than a handful of average punters saying that they’ll take shut a shop down and/or take their business elsewhere.

As for the champ who suggested that people who supported the miners’ strikes got depressed because those strikes ultimately failed – I doubt very much that was the most depressing part. The depressing parts would have been the loss of jobs, the police aggression and the destruction of communities. Not putting up some sort of resistance would have been even more depressing – not least because that was simply not an option.

Tell me how you’d deal with an attack on your community.

Well done to Luis, Tim J and the usuals for spectacularly missing the point in the article. Keep that idiotic cynicism going boys – maybe one day the lightbulb will go off.

In this article? I thought that I’d rather got the point of this one actually. This:

The response was overwhelmingly positive towards the protesters, and hateful towards Vodafone, the government, and the rich.

Would seem to tally pretty well with this:

If you want to generate a slightly inchoate sense of anger at the fact that large corporations generally don’t pay as much tax as they should, it probably doesn’t matter that you pick out a particularly bad example – Vodafone, tax dodge and £6bn are pretty good rallying cries, and I suppose they can’t really go and picket the Guardian over their use of a Caymans SPV for the sale of Auto Trader.

There’s very little point in talking about details behind cases (or policies for that matter) with people who are only interested in ideas that fit on placards. But just occasionally people are interested in what is behind stories like this.

Why, for instance, do you think HMRC made a settlement with Vodafone? Because the Tories are in bed with big business? Because George Osborne decided he didn’t really need an extra £5bn?

Kate B,

Your question assumes there is an attack on my community (I don’t see one at the moment, but then again I have more sense than to equate community with government spending). I would then choose to respond as I deemed appropriate and effective – perhaps by direct action, perhaps by various campaigns.

As I have stated elsewhere on this site, you have to be pretty confident of your measures if you think they are going to make Vodafone consider paying HMRC large amounts of extra money to make you go away. I cannot in all honesty see your campaign causing that sort of damage, because I think it is pure reaction and not attractive enough to those outside of a certain viewpoint.

To make it clear, I would not support this campaign anyway (Vodafone have done nothing wrong, even if you don’t like it). But if Vodafone were doing something I did oppose (perhaps not spelling phone properly in their name…), I would not suggest ‘closing’ (for a few minutes or hours) their stores or blackening their name (most people won’t care when it comes to comparing prices) is going to cause much damage. I suggested elsewhere some form of pledging to boycott system (easier for people to support, public, and can be publically delivered in paper form (sorry environment) for maximum effect), others have suggested ways of increasing Vodafone’s costs by those stuck within contracts. These strike me as better ideas than the sort of protest born two centuries ago when people had to go to the shop.

I do not doubt Chris is correct when he judges that in their own terms the Vodafone protests have succeeded. My problem is that I do not think there is a chance in hell of material success or political gain out of this – rather it looks like a small left-wing faction patting itself on the back for being noticed.

37. Luis Enrique

Sunny,

There goes your reality distortion field again. Underneath an OP about the success of these protests, as a vehicle for popular anger about cuts, tax injustices etc. I leave a comment (25) asking to what extent it matters if this success raising awareness – for a broad cause I support – is based on misleading information about the specific case. Now you may answer it doesn’t matter (I have no view) or you may claim the information is not misleading (I’d disagree), but what point you think I’ve missed, where my cynicism lies, or why you think I haven’t been paying attention, is anybody’s guess.

Kate,

Ok, so the vodaphone and boycott the 35 are part of a longer term game-plan, but thats kind of my question – how are you going to keep the troops motivated for want of a better term when the boycotts seem to have little effect on the bottom line of those companies.

How would I respond to an attack on my community?

I think the first point is obvious, I’d want to choose a course of action likely to achieve the best results. Evidence based campaigning if you like.

This is where we get murky, because the only response I’ve had so far to my question of asking for an example of a succesful boycott recently is a vague response of ‘we have to do something’. But if I was to ask for an example of a successful campaign generally (i.e. something that got legislation changed, caused a massive change in attitudes etc) then there are numerous examples I could take from feminism, gay liberation, and even the anti-war stuff, and no doubt you yourself could instantly think of several. So why is an example of a succesful boycott in recent years not instantly springing up?

So lets say this protest about vodaphone isn’t about the specifics, but part of a wider campaign about the cuts aiming to build a long term movement. How would I go about this?

I’d start with basics this is a political problem caused by one particular party and the fact its found itself with favourable political territory (i.e. it feels able to do X, Y and Z).

Secondly no one person or group can do everything – this has to be a network based movement where each little campaign feeds into the wider movement. Now at this point I hear you say that vodaphone was part of this, and to some extent I agree. But the message cannot just be about vodaphone but wider tax evasion and avoision and the fact the rich are getting away with not contributing their fair share. And doing this makes you vulnerable to legal challenges and backlashes if you don’t get your facts right – Tesco has already proven big corporates are willing to sue the shit out of you if you get this bit wrong. Not to mention your credibility with the wider public – which is essential to the overall goal of having a big enough movement to force MPs to think of their majorities. The public generally cease trusting groups who cry wolf all the time.

So I’d say the energy used in this boycott was better placed in establishing a tax avoider watch type group. There are surely enough volunteers available to set up a website, produce detailed research on both the corporates doing it and the bits of the law that need to be changed. Then you can have a detailed resource backing up actions you take against corporates, and a clear message of the legislation you wish changed.

And I’d also feed it into a more honest discussion with other groups about evaluating the effectiveness of different actions, so future groups and movements stop repeating the same mistakes that are made time and time again.

The article already points out what the measure of progress is, and how that has been successful.

Here’s another one: Vodafone’s share price is up today.

Why, for instance, do you think HMRC made a settlement with Vodafone? Because the Tories are in bed with big business?

Yes, and in my article yesterday I pointed out that Osborne has lobbied on behalf of Vodafone and said he doesn’t want companies to pay too much tax here.

I thought the point we are making would be obvious, but I guess it needs repeating for some.

Luis – highly disingenuous to accuse protests of being misleading given your only complaint seems to be it doesn’t fully explain all the info regarding EU law that you want. I take it you’ve never protested against anything in your life then.

Chris points out that the aim is to raise profile of the fact that Vodafone have evaded a lot of tax. we’ve already had coverage of this far more than the original decision to let Vodafone off the hook did.

Is it that difficult for you to understand that simple point. You’re usually quite intelligent but you’ve spectacularly missed the wood for the trees on this occasion.

The temporary rise in share price doesn’t mean anything.

@Sunny: Wishing doesn’t make it so: from the comments, those you’re hitting out at clearly read the article, and thought more about its content than either you or its author.

Personally I wondered if Chris Coltrane’s yardstick of having handed out 2,000 leaflets was the measure of his stand up comedy; if it is, I do wonder who on earth engages him to do it, because his jokes are dreadful.

This bit of his post is particularly bizarre:

This awareness raising is the yardstick by which success is measured – and from what I see, our success was off the scale.

His only empirical measure is the number of leaflets handed out (2,000). The list of articles doesn’t speak to success – outside blogs, most of the articles seem to be wire service pieces (if he doesn’t understand why that matters, you must). His figures for the number of people protesting in London (100) suggest that the actual number of participants was significantly lower than that which I allowed yesterday (c.50 at each of the 21 sites), and the images I’ve seen of the Liverpool and Scottish protests suggest even lower figures. If your victory conditions were set so low in advance (I strongly suspect that the truth is that nobody had the sense to actually set any) it’s no wonder you’re now declaring the say a success.

I keep coming back to the SWP’s regular newspaper sales on the Saturday as the best comparator for what you achieved. Nobody’s yet challenged this, or said anything which makes me think it’s an unfair comparison.

You “closed” 21 Vodafone stores (based on anecdotal evidence, and there’s contrary evidence from some people to suggest closures were temporary or amounted to little more than incovenienicng people who had to step over or around protestors), handed out leaflets at some stores, and got a handful of news articles (I’ve commented previously on the fact that these landed late on Saturday, and were forgotten, outside of the left wing media by Monday).

To achieve this, you blew any remaining tactical surprise vis a vis Vodafone, expended some activist support (unless you want to seriously argue that all those who were there on Saturday will be back next, and the week after; admittedly this is regenerable), and expended non-human resources on leaflets and banners.

Press interest is a non-regenerable resource, of course. You expended a lot of it on Saturday; short of including some celebrities in your next sit in, that’s going to be gone shortly.

@Kate Belgrave: Claiming that your campaigns can be seen to be succeeding because people are taking the time to point out how daft your articles is wonderfully meta; myself, I’d want to be citing the number of people signed up to my boycott, or the estimated commercial impact of the action so far. But hey, what do I know: I foolishly assume that people’s campaigns are designed to achieve the ends that their placards declare, and that they would take adopt ways and means which reflect this. Sunny’s already put me straight on this by his explanation that people picketed Vodafone shops and held up placards about claims of tax avoidance by Vodafone in order to get publicity in order to support a broader (read: more nebulous) end of raising public awareness.

As to

Tell me how you’d deal with an attack on your community.

this made me think of that muppet who suggested expropriating taxing 10% of the net worth of the top 10% of earners (which for the record is anyone earning over £49k) in order to deal with the deficit, instead of taking a single penny from people on benefits, or indeed anything else that the UK Government does. Try it, and see how quickly you can provoke a response. I doubt that response would involve people sitting down in shop doorways or chanting slogans, but I suspect it would have a slightly more significant effect on the future happiness of anyone depending on the state for welfare, or wages.

Why, for instance, do you think HMRC made a settlement with Vodafone? Because the Tories are in bed with big business?

Yes, and in my article yesterday I pointed out that Osborne has lobbied on behalf of Vodafone and said he doesn’t want companies to pay too much tax here.

I thought the point we are making would be obvious, but I guess it needs repeating for some.

So, your suggestion is that Osborne intervened to let Vodafone off a large tax bill because he’s in bed with big business. And you’re wondering why Luis feels your attitude towards the facts in this case is at risk of letting you down?

Chris points out that the aim is to raise profile of the fact that Vodafone have evaded a lot of tax. we’ve already had coverage of this far more than the original decision to let Vodafone off the hook did.

What are you Sunny? Stupid? Blind? Vodafone haven’t evaded any tax at all. There was an unresolved legal dispute between them and HMRC as to whether any tax at all was due. The High Court thought there wasn’t. If the case had gone back through the courts, there’s a chance that they might have been found liable for tax in a greater amount – although the chances of this being £6bn are vanishingly small. There’s also a chance that they might have been found not liable for any tax whatsoever. Which is why the parties settled.

Facts matter. There’s simplifying complex matters, and there’s just flat out lying.

43. Luis Enrique

Sunny for crying out loud

first “disingenuous” means not straightforward, false frankness. Can I assure you that I am doing my best to be quite plain.

I have stated quite clearly that I think the assertion “the government has let Vodafone off £6bn of tax” is misleading, and why. Repeatedly.

Chris points out that the aim is to raise profile of the fact that Vodafone have evaded a lot of tax. we’ve already had coverage of this far more than the original decision to let Vodafone off the hook did.

Is it that difficult for you to understand that simple point.

what the f*** is wrong with you? Is it going to help if I repeat myself one more time? I don’t know how to type slowly, perhaps you could try reading this slowly: I have written nothing that disputes the success of these protests in “raising the profile” of this story. I have repeatedly chimed in on your side by pointing out these protests are not about getting Vodafone to cough up, but part of a broader movement about cuts, tax justice etc. Here’s one example. Yesterday, I did discuss with Tim if there was anything HMRC could do and what changes in tax law mights stop companies from doing things like this in the future, but I have never said that’s what these protests are all about. I have asked whether it matters if this success (which I am denying in your hallucinatory world) is based on misleading information (which I think it is). I even suggested that it might not matter! (@25)

amazingly, you have complained about me not reading what people write. I wouldn’t be surprised if you again reply by telling me I have missed the point about how successful these protests have been.

You’re usually quite intelligent

yesterday you complained about being patronized! (and that was after you wrote this!). Awesome.

44. Flowerpower

Sunny

Chris points out that the aim is to raise profile of the fact that Vodafone have evaded….

So what are you saying now – that even the rather crucial distinction between tax evasion and avoidance doesn’t matter so long as you guys are raising consciousness and establishing a narrative?

45. Arthur Seaton

“Can you imagine how many Vodaphone employees would be laid off if the company got stuck with a 6bn bill? Newbury would be the joblessness centre of Britain.”

Why? This is just the income tax they legally owe, why would they have to sack everyone? And even if they did, the number of public sector workers that could be employed (or, rather, not sacked) for £6bn would be more than the Vodafone workforce several dozen times over. You’re really going to have to come up with a better argument than that to defend these indefensible scumballs.

Tim J

You can’t be much of a lawyer if you have this much free time to spend blogging on here?

I cant wait for the changes to the LSF and means testing then all those high street Law firms sucking the life out of legal aid will have to justify their extortianate fees or join the benefit claimers?

You’re really going to have to come up with a better argument than that to defend these indefensible scumballs.

OK – very simply: they didn’t make the money in the UK (it’s derived from their German business). There’s a reasonable claim that Vodafone conned the German taxpayer out of GBP4bn, by keeping the German business lossmaking and ensuring that all profits were recognised in Luxembourg.

There’s no moral reason *whatsoever* why companies should pay tax in the UK for services that are entirely delivered and provided overseas to foreign nationals by foreign nationals, and the UK is unusual among countries worldwide in trying to levy tax on this. Frankly, we’re lucky to get *any* tax revenue on the profits that Vodafone makes by hiring Germans and Indians to provide mobile phone services to Germans and Indians.

46 – meh, that’s litigation for you. You’re frantic one minute, quiet the next. I’m currently staring out of a window in Germany wondering when I’ll be told why the hell they dragged me out here on 12 hours notice.

@ katebelgrave

They will never understand your ‘community’ because it has nothing to do with their reality and unfortunately for us, they are always the most relentless and visible in politics and business.

I have empathy, which is why I am too the left. To hope and pray that these guys I’ll is a waste of energy and time.

What to do? Think strategically and work in a bigger picture spectrum. There is a huge place for protests but you must also work with lobby groups cohesively, otherwise all we do is go round in circles screaming on the outside.

This has not been a success or a failure. At this moment in time it is too early to tell what the outcome of protesting against Vodafone will be.
Raising awareness is just the start. Not the end.
A real victory would see Vodafone voluntary offering to support certain causes within the UK in lieu of the tax they negotiated out of paying and an acceptance that tax avoidance is an immoral practice.
The pressure must be maintained until Vodafone start to hurt financially.
It is only then that they will take the protest seriously and act to save themselves from a pr disaster.

I agree with you on tax avoidance, but I don’t think it should be tied to the cuts.

Even with everybody paying taxes, we’ll still have a huge mountain of national debt which will one day have to be paid back and which costs us a lot of interest every year. Ironically, the interest payments of the debt (which is so often seen as a lesser evil on the left) go to – guess who holds government bonds? – the rich.


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